Tag Archives: Gardening

THE HISTORY OF PUMPKIN CARVING – REVISITED

THE HISTORY OF PUMPKIN CARVING

Without fail, the arrival of autumn marks the season of all things pumpkin. From pumpkin bread, to pumpkin scented candles, to my daughter Maggie’s annual visit to The Pumpkin Patch, the pumpkin is an essential part of the seasonal change. Just ask any coffee shop employee who hears the cry for Pumpkin Spice Latte dozens (or hundreds) of times each day. In celebration of Halloween and in the spirit of the autumn season, we thought we would re-share our tribute to all things pumpkin. We have also added links to pumpkin carving tutorials and seasonal recipes.

Pumpkins are a form of squash, native to North America. Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in America each year. This fruit (and, because it develops from a flower, it is technically a fruit and not a vegetable) is the most common symbol of the fall season and Halloween. Pumpkins are present in our literary and popular culture, making appearances in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, and Cinderella.

The act of carving pumpkins dates back thousands of years to the Celtic festival of Samuin, or Samhain. This festival marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of harvest and it was used as a time to honor the dead. Some believed that this was the night when the separation between the worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest, making it easier to communicate with those on the “other side.” Celts who sought to ward off evil spirits would often light great bonfires to dissuade unfriendly visitors. As Christianity spread, the fires became more contained and were placed inside large gourds or turnips. Families would carve the fruits and vegetables, placing them in their windows and hoping to deter the otherworldly from entering their homes.

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BLACKBERRY FARM’S GREEN TOMATO PIE

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It is no secret that Southerners love green tomatoes. We fry them, pickle them, stew them, bake them in pies, and even write books about them. Readily available at the beginning and ending of each summer season, this under-ripe fruit has a firm flesh and an acidic, sour taste—which allows them to be used in an array of dishes.

The Factory Café has been featuring Blackberry Farm’s recipe for Green Tomato Pie on the menu this month, as part of our ongoing Chef Series. The dish’s popularity has been evident the past few weeks—as soon as patrons spot the words “Green Tomato” on our menu, they cannot resist ordering.

The chefs at Blackberry Farm suggest selecting medium-size green tomatoes, since larger ones can have woody, inedible cores and clumps of bitter seeds.

From The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, page 109:

“Here is our classic twist on a classic Southern favorite, red tomato layered pie. We borrow the flavor and textures of the traditional accompaniments to fried catfish- tart lemon, creamy tartar sauce, and fried hush puppies- and present them in an untraditional way: Green tomato stands for lemon to provide the acid, buttermilk mayonnaise and cheese provide the creamy richness of the tartar sauce, and the flaky crust that holds it all together stands in for the hush puppies.

The lard and the buttermilk contribute flakiness and great flavor to this pie crust, but the real secret to its tenderness is the rolling method. Folding the dough onto itself and rolling it out several times forms thin layers within the dough. When the fat melts in the heat of the oven, the evaporation of moisture contained in the tiny space between the layers forces each layer to rise, just like in puff pastry.”

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EARTH DAY + RECYCLING

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“Don’t throw anything away. Away is not far from you.”

The quote above hangs in our studio as a reminder that each action we take (no matter how big or small) impacts our environment. Designed by our friend Robert Rausch a few years ago, the simple quote was stamped on an event invite as a means to provoke thought about what people use and, consequently, throw away each day. At Alabama Chanin, we are taking strides to become a zero waste company—where the results of one production process become the fuel for another. It is our continuing goal to maintain a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.

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Not only do we reuse and recycle each scrap of fabric, but we also participate in other sustainable and environmental practices on a daily basis. We recycle paper and cardboard, collect and save glass in the café, compost all food waste, repurpose scrap paper, plant trees, and are even starting a garden at The Factory. Waste not, want not.

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MACRAME HANGERS + KITCHEN HERBS

MACRAME HANGERS

This summer’s harvest has begun to reveal its bounty. Tomatoes and cucumbers are in full-swing and soon I will have all of the squash and zucchini I can stand (and plenty for the neighbors) not to mention, beautiful Italian basil, which I love with a tomato sandwich. I recently received this book, Vintage Craft Workshop, from friend and author Cathy Callahan. The macramé planter project immediately caught my eye and got me thinking about the possibility of year-round fresh basil and mint.

In my mind, I am planning several hanging pots that will live just inside a large window, where they will get lots of sun. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of hanging pots are the macramé plant holders in my home in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. They ran along the kitchen wall in varying heights, usually filled with ferns and the random “Spider Plant” (Chlorophytum comosum). Here, we attempted our own Alabama Chanin version, to test out the sizes we could make, the height, and how they would look made with our cotton jersey pulls. No surprise – they look exactly as I remember them.

MACRAME HANGERS

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SHANE POWERS: BRING THE OUTDOORS IN

SHANE POWERS: BRING THE OUTDOORS IN

I love having fresh flowers around the office. I dream of flower beds surrounding the building and vases of camellia blooms on each desk. Shane Powers’ book, Bring the Outdoors In: Garden Projects for Decorating and Styling Your Home, has inspired me to perhaps be more ambitious in my plans for floral décor – both at home and in the office. I first met Shane through his work with my friend, Li Edelkoort. He worked on her (amazing) magazine, Bloom, and I met him again in Finland as he was helping curate and install Li’s exhibition, A World of Folk, and the Design Seminar, Folk Futures. Shane went on to work for prestigious titles like Vogue Living Australia, Blueprint, and Martha Stewart Living, and he recently created an indoor garden collection for West Elm. He is a busy man, to say the least.

Bring the Outdoors In is not a traditional gardening book. Rather, Shane presents ideas and instructions for projects that are akin to floral art installations. The results are astonishing, especially when compared to the traditional potted plant. This type of project would be perfect alongside traditional décor and would fit right into any unconventional home design. It is also ideal for apartment dwellers who lack the outdoor space for a garden plot of their own.

SHANE POWERS: BRING THE OUTDOORS IN

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IN THE (KITCHEN) GARDEN

IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN - photo by Abraham Rowe Photography

Popular culture, social media, and our peers are all embracing a trend in home gardening across the country (though few of these gardens are as radical as Ron Finley’s median-turned-vegetable-garden project in Los Angeles). A guest for dinner last night mentioned that “even Oprah is on trend now,” having planted her own garden. Here in North Alabama, the home garden is hardly a trend. Most people grow at least a couple of tomato and pepper plants every summer. And if you take a drive down one of our many county roads, you’re likely to see large swaths of lawn devoted to food, with neat rows of summer vegetables stretching over red blankets of Alabama clay.

I’ve had a garden since I moved into my house in 2006. Putting it in might take only a weekend, but the cultivation takes years. However, it’s the week-to-week management that becomes difficult. When temperatures reach 98 degrees in the shade (and stays there for days on end) keeping up with the insects, weeds, the harvest, and watering becomes quite the challenge. Making time becomes stealing time. This is why my generous fall garden was still in the ground in late May, every kale or broccoli plant flowered and well on its way to seed.

IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN - photo by Abraham Rowe Photography

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REAL WOMEN EAT LETTUCE (+ SHERRY HONEY VINAIGRETTE)

On Monday, Sara wrote her thoughts on fashion and designing for real people with different body types. We’ve written before ‘On Beauty’ and the comeback of pin-up style. Even though media representations might make you feel differently, the fact is that women come in so many beautiful shapes and sizes. This is a deeply important and significant subject, and will be a recurrent theme for us this year. Our journal is a platform to share our views and opinions on any matter of the body (and mind), and we always encourage you to share your own stories and thoughts in the comments section.

It’s the New Year (10 days in already), a time when many of us reflect on our life in the past year, resolve to find peace in each day, and to look ahead to new goals and achievements. 99.9% of the time, weight loss is a top goal for resolutions in the New Year.

Diet. Eat salad. Lose weight. Be skinny.

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THE YEAR IN EATS (+ A NEWFOUND LOVE FOR SORBET)

This year saw our Journal take a more structured tone and we devoted particular days to particular topics. Wednesday’s became Recipe Wednesday and we worked to get ourselves organized and cook. EVERY WEEK.  It was quite a feat of organization since we also run the production office, online store, design, pay bills, and as I mentioned on Monday, also manage this Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook. It’s a lot of content. Erin joined the team full-time early in the year, Sara continues to make this stuff worth reading, we planted the garden (again), and we got cooking.

My biscuit recipe made it into the Wall Street Journal thanks to Charlotte Druckman. (More on Charlotte’s terrific new book Skirt Steak in the coming months.)

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ROSEMARY VODKA

Everything from roasted potatoes to strawberries and Prosecco  (sometimes in the same meal) have been flavored by my rosemary plants; I have been known to make flower arrangements (and wreaths) from the fragrant leaves and drink rosemary infused tea at the same time.  And while I use rosemary year-round, this evergreen bush is readily available in the deep of winter, when all the other herbs have died back. Perhaps for this reason, there is something about the flavor of rosemary that just feels like the holidays.

Rosemary flavored vodka has recently become a bit of a staple amongst our friends. It’s easy to make and looks absolutely beautiful when you include a fresh sprig for garnish. It’s been tested and approved in a modified screwdriver: just mix 1 ounce of rosemary vodka with the juice from one orange and serve over ice.  Rosemary vodka is also delicious with a bit of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic or in your favorite Bloody Mary recipe, but the possibilities are endless. If you have a great idea for a rosemary cocktail, be sure to let us know in the comments section.

Make extra of this easy infusion for your upcoming holiday gifting.

Homemade in three days—can’t beat that.

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DIY ROSEMARY WREATH

I have been somewhat of an herbalist since I was a small child.  Plant names and properties have always come as second nature.  While I struggle with the names and faces of people (sometimes people I have just met can go undistinguished an hour later), I have a recall for plants that sometimes baffles. It is almost like I have a memory older than myself when it comes to leaves and weeds.

Like Juliette of the Herbs (see the clip at the bottom of this post), I have planted many a garden—across the globe—and while each garden has its own story, every garden I planted has included rosemary.  After a brief “settling in period,” this elegant (and evergreen) shrub grows tall and wide in the Alabama climate. There is an Old Wives’ Tale about perennial plants: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps.” It’s true. I have two rosemary shrubs in my home that I took as small diggings from the garden of my last house—our old production office at Lovelace Crossroads. Five years later, those bushes thrive and have spiced many a lunch, dinner, and, yes, cocktail. Come back this afternoon for our Rosemary Infused Vodka recipe .

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